OTTAWA, January 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A “Free Speech Wall” set up by Carleton University Students for Liberty was destroyed by a fellow student who described himself as an "anti-homophobia campaigner."
Carleton Students for Liberty (SFL) founder Ian CoKehyeng explained that a Free Speech Wall is simply large sheets of paper set up in a high traffic area on campus where students can write anything they like.
But after students set up the wall on Monday in the Unicentre Galleria, one of the campus’ most frequented areas, a student, Arun Smith, tore off the paper with the messages left by students and destroyed the framework to which the paper was fastened.
Smith defended his actions on his Facebook page, saying that the free speech wall was offensive to homosexuals because someone might write something to which homosexuals object.
"In organizing the ‘free speech wall,’ the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation, and this liberation is prevented by providing space for either more platitudes, or for the expression of hate," Smith wrote. He called the free speech wall a "war zone" and "another in a series of acts of violence” against homosexual rights.
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Paradoxically, the messages that Smith destroyed contained more approval of homosexuality than disapproval.
Compared to many pro-gay messages such as "Queers are awesome" and "Gay is OK," there was only one comment, "Traditional marriage is awesome," which might be construed as touching on the homosexual agenda. Another message said, "Abortion is murder."
CoKehyeng said the SFL's stand against censorship meant that everyone should be free to express their opinion on the free speech wall without fear of running afoul of school administration or being attacked by those who object to their message.
He said that a majority of students support the free speech wall and that the main opposition “comes from a vocal minority of students who are concerned with creating so-called safe spaces on campus.”
"While this is a noble goal," CoKehyeng said, “there is nothing safe about censorship.”
"It is clear from Mr. Smith's [Facebook] note that for him the world is a small, closed and scary place where he and other vulnerable groups are constantly under attack," Neilson wrote.
"There is no need to be angry at someone like this. I urge Carleton Students for Liberty to re-erect the wall and encourage those who sympathise with the need to tear it down to participate along with everybody else. I don't think asking CUSA [Carlton U. Student Assoc.] to punish those opposing the wall will be constructive, but inviting engagement might be."
"We don't need to destroy anything to start a conversation, we only need to invite people to join us," Neilson concluded.
John Carpay, president of the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), whose organization is a co-sponsor of the Free Speech Wall, praised the Students for Liberty initiative to encourage free speech at Carlton. However, he also pointed out the inconsistency in the school administration's handling of the vandalism committed on campus by Arun Smith in comparison to their decision to arrest pro-life students for trespassing when they attempted to set up a display of the Genocide Awareness Project.
"It's good that Carlton University allows the Free Speech Wall," Carpay told LifeSiteNews, "but it will be interesting to see how they respond to Arun Smith having publicly admitted to having damaged and stolen someone's property on campus, when they arrested and handcuffed pro-life students for wanting to peacefully express their opinions on campus. It will be interesting to see whether Carlton imposes any consequences on Smith."
In the JCCF's 2012 Campus Freedom Index, a report on the state of free speech at Canadian universities, Carlton was rated among the worst in the country.
The introduction to the Index states that one of the biggest threats to free speech in Canada comes from universities that condone illegal activities on the part of people who interfere with, and effectively shut down, the events and speech of people they disagree with, noting that Section 430 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to obstruct, interrupt or interfere with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.
“Whether universities themselves restrict controversial and politically incorrect speech, or whether they fail to uphold the rule of law on campus, in both cases the end result is censorship,” the JCCF concluded.
Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor
503 Tory Building
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
Tel: 613 520-3801
Fax: 613 520-4474